Saga Review: James Bond (No.15 – No.16)

That’s right, with Skyfall releasing later this year I am opting to give you my thoughts on all of the Bond films! There’s twenty-two films, and when I started this challenge there were twenty-two weeks before Skyfall, sounds good to me!
I grew up in the six year drought of Bond films, between the Dalton and Brosnen Eras, so my definition of Bond is Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and License to Kill, while Goldeneye is one of my top favourites. It took me a little while to watch all of the other James Bond films, but they were regularly shown on television, and while the Brosnen films quickly worsened I would never grow to like the Roger Moore era. At least not yet.

Because there are twenty-two films I am breaking my reviews down into eras as best I can.

It is bitter-sweet, today’s post, because after nearly two months of Roger Moore torture I only get two weeks of awesomeness that is the Timothy Dalton films. I grew up with these films, so naturally I am already biased, but believe me when I say this, these films are massively underrated. Massively. Underrated.

So let’s see how much awesome action and spy work we can fit into just four hours! There will be great 1980s music, tanker trucks exploding, capable Bond Girls (for once), sharks, exploding toothpaste, angry eyes and steely stares! It is the Dalton duo.

The Living Daylights (1987)

Thank you, thank you; effort, honest to god effort!

The Living Daylights comes just two years after Roger Moore’s era, and boldly starts a brand new chapter with Timothy Dalton as an all new Bond.
While secret agents are being killed off, Bond is asked to protect a defector and informant from the KGB who was targeted by a female sniper. However, not all is as it seems, and a string of betrayal and death leads Bond to a war profiteering general and his diamond smuggling operation.

The tone has changed dramatically from the last seven Bond films; finally we get a film that feels like a thriller, a spy film. Not only this, but the film has integrity and the sense it has been written not for cheap laughs and silly stunt sequences, but to tell a story of espionage and double-crosses.

Not to say there aren’t any Bond staples, there’s plenty! We even get… skiing?? Actually, this is skiing with an awesome return of the Aston Martin, I always remember this early sequence; a car with pop-out skis, windshield projected targeting computers, rocket launchers, even the booster from the Batmobile! All of this without some stupid sheriff mugging at the camera, bliss.

Bond is far darker now, his mood is vengeful and often uncompromising, prepared to do whatever it takes to get what he wants – and get the job done. This may put off those who… for some reason… like Roger Moore’s take, for example. But Daylights isn’t without comedic relief, only it is done subtly, giving a wry chuckle and a knowing grin.

If you enjoy the recent Daniel Craig movies, yet haven’t seen Dalton’s, I implore you to do so! They are massively underrated spy action movies. Daylights has its teething problems, but it packs a punch and is consistently dynamic and eye-catching.


Licence to Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton gets into his stride in what will be his second and final outing, making for the darkest and most intense film in the series!

Bond’s colleague Felix Leiter and his newly-wed are violently attacked on their honeymoon by a drug baron out to settle the score, this however forces Bond against MI6 as nothing will stop him getting revenge.

What a startling difference we can see compared to Moore, even more so than The Living Daylights! Licence to Kill has a reasonably simple setup and down-to-earth villains and settings, but it is head-shoulders-chest and feet above the drivel of Roger Moore’s era. Here we see an incredibly vulnerable Bond, a man blinded by revenge so great that he constantly puts those around him in danger, and this is sold perfectly by Dalton (who has grown in confidence since Daylights) and Robert Davi as the cold hearted Franz Sanchez, easily one of the best villains in the series. We even get a steadfast Bond Girl in Carey Lowell’s Pam Bouvier, who doesn’t make mistakes, has her own independent goals, and scowls at Bond’s attitude frequently.

The action is frequently excellent as it is entirely story driven, there are no random detours for the sake of it, and escalation never feels forced or contrived. It is easily, easily the bloodiest of the Bonds; people are torn apart by sharks, fed into grinders, exploded in decompression chambers. It is grisly stuff, but I love the darker Bond!

If I had to pick flaws in it, I would only say that the character of Lupe felt unnecessary, her romance with Bond felt forced to allow for a love triangle. She provided assistance to move the plot forward and help Bond, but everything else seemed needless.

Easily my favourite Bond film so far, and in this day and age you must see it if you haven’t already! It is a dark, realistic spy action film, and the way Bond should be!

Additional Marshmallows: This is the last Bond for many of the actors, not just Dalton, it was Robert Brown’s last part as the original M, and Caroline Bliss who took over as Moneypenny would not return.

The troubles of the Dalton era would strike even harder on the franchise; there would not be a Bond film for a further six years, the longest period without a movie in production. This was due to numerous setbacks: with Licence to Kill’s box office failure, director John Glen left the production studios, the writer of thirteen Bond films died in 1991, and legal ownership of the franchise was hotly disputed. This caused Timothy Dalton to turn down the role in future films, while producer Albert Broccoli retired.
The James Bond franchise was in a bad place!

In 1995, Bond would finally return, and it would be all change (except maybe for Q!) it is the Pierce Brosnen era, and boy is it going to be an interesting one… Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

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